The report, which has been running since 2011, is the largest of its kind, providing valuable insights into the most successful Salesforce implementations.
The State of Salesforce
Since the release of the last 2022-23 IBM report, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind – and not the fun kind. Words such as downturn, inflation, layoffs, and recession have plagued our channels since the end of 2021, and Salesforce has been no exception to this.
But there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is coming to us in the form of artificial intelligence. With the insane adoption of generative AI apps, and many industry thought leaders such as Bill Gates and Marc Benioff predicting that this new wave of technology will be unlike anything we have ever seen, could we be experiencing a new industrial revolution?
Inside this year’s report, readers will find the results of the IBM research team speaking to 3,459 executives involved in Salesforce implementations. The report also contains a lot of data comparing the “pioneer” organizations, those who are embracing AI and change, versus the “pensive” who have yet to fully complete their digital transformation.
Let’s dive into the current state of Salesforce for 2023-24, and some of the top trends that will affect all Salesforce professionals.
Insight 1: Shape the Future of Generative AI
Artificial intelligence: hype or the real thing? A natural question to ask when a new “game-changing” technology arrives on the scene. After all, some might still be reeling from the buzz around cryptocurrency and NFT’s.
But artificial intelligence is different. Never in my 11 years in the Salesforce ecosystem have I seen Salesforce professionals, the wider tech ecosystem, and company executives get so excited over a technology. Let me share a few key findings from the report…
- 75% of CEOs believe competitive advantage will depend on who has the most advanced generative AI.
- 50% of CEOs are now integrating generative AI into products and services.
- 43% are using generative AI to inform their strategic decisions.
- Generative AI sales budgets are expected to triple by 2025, with marketing and service budgets expected to more than double.
Most people hadn’t even heard of generative AI until less than a year ago, so I find these results pretty incredible.
One big separation from the companies IBM identified as “pioneers” versus “pensives” in this space, is how they are approaching generative AI. Pioneers are already experimenting with AI, trying to find use cases that can increase profitability, and free up their employees to focus on higher value customer tasks. They are also expanding the potential remit of generative AI, that could be used across customer service, sales, and marketing.
Pensive companies, alternatively, are cautiously focussed on internal use cases. Part of this cautiousness could be due to the “Trust Gap” that Salesforce has identified, which they have already set out to solve with the AI Cloud.
If, after reading this insight, you feel that your company may be falling behind the curve when it comes to experimenting with AI, there are two major areas to focus on:
- Experiment: Whether this is upskilling yourself as a professional, or working alongside your business to get a headstart on potential projects, experimenting is the way to do it. Of course theory is important too, but with widely accessible generative AI platforms available, it’s time to get to grips with the potential.
- Think holistically: Don’t restrict yourself to improving the current state of operations, and think beyond simply helping your employees generate some text. We are still at the very early stages of AI, and anything is possible.
Just in case any extra motivation is needed to get started, pioneers expect nearly 15% of their workforce will be augmented with generative AI tools within the next year as more employees are trained and gain hands-on experience.
Insight 2: Gain Altitude With Industry Clouds
It was around 2015 when I first heard of verticalization within Salesforce the company – that is, ensuring every touch point from sales teams, to product, and the implementation partner had an industry focus and specialization.
This had a couple of main benefits. Firstly, the customer was surrounded by Salesforce experts that understood their industry, and spoke their language – acronyms and all. Secondly, it allowed the customer to get value out of their implementation faster. So it’s no real surprise to see IBM identify Industry Clouds as top trend for 2023-24.
Why are they so impactful? Simple. Industry Clouds allow Salesforce customers to adopt specific, customer-centric solutions tailored for their industry.
The reason this trend has been included, is due to the ROI and impact that pioneering organizations see when they implement Salesforce Industries. IBM has identified that pioneers see 150% more ROI than pensives. Pioneers are also more bullish on industry solutions in general, and are implementing customer experience with Industry Cloud capabilities 56% more than pensives.
In addition, an encouraging statistic to come out of the report is that pioneering companies make up 14-24% of every industry, meaning that all organizations can take advantage of industry solutions.
Insight 3: Integrate Data to Dismantle Siloes
Remember when big data was the hot topic as organizations tried to work out how to deal with the immense amount of data they are generating? Well, we have come full circle.
Data might not be the hot topic anymore, or be as interesting to talk about as artificial intelligence, but it is fundamental in everything we do as Salesforce professionals – especially in the age of AI.
IBM’s third insight, in my opinion, is imperative to all businesses’ future success. In last year’s report, IBM identified Salesforce multi-cloud as an important trend, but in the 2023-24 report, we need to go beyond just multi-cloud, and ensure that all data from the organization is sitting in a centralized location.
Of course, this means we have to do the basics right, such as ensuring an Account Manager has oversight of the customers implementation and any post-support that is going on. But by having centralized data, it also allows us to overlay AI to generate insights.
The State of Salesforce report shows that pioneers are able to…
- Reveal new opportunities 39% more than pensives.
- Apply AI to generate insights 54% more.
- Identify 28% more unmet customer needs.
- Discover new business models 37% more.
It’s also important to point out that data is the bedrock foundation of which generative AI efforts are laid. If data is sparse, inaccurate, or out of date, your generative AI outputs will be too.
Insight 4: Invest in a Change-Ready Culture
If there’s one thing that’s inevitable in the world of technology, it’s change.
In the Salesforce ecosystem over the past 10 years, we’ve had to support lightning migrations, integrations of marketing automation systems, supporting a remote-first workforce, and now, we need to roll out artificial intelligence.
If there’s a second thing we’ve learned in the world of technology, it’s that the companies that embrace chance and agility are those that reap the rewards, and the data backs this up. Pioneers prioritize higher accuracy in measuring Salesforce ROI so they can adopt more quickly (117% more than pensives) and they are also 89% more likely to adapt their business model.
Pioneers are also 38% more likely than pensives to crowdsource innovation from within. This is especially important for artificial intelligence. Due to the fact that there are only a handful of well-known use cases for AI, it’s time to find out from your ‘boots on the ground’ how AI might be able to help them.
But embracing change and implementing Salesforce isn’t enough, your organization needs to have proper change management in place to ensure that ideas and new technologies turn into cold hard ROI.
Insight 5: Overcome Enterprise Inertia With Innovation
Innovation is something all companies know they need to do, but in reality it can be a challenge. However, as this insight in the report suggests, it’s a sure fire way to overcome a stagnant organization.
Innovation is also the perfect word to summarize all the insights in this year’s report. Any one of these trends will support your organization in becoming ready for changes to the market.
And how do you understand changes in the market, or within your business? The answer is data. Data might as well be the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. Our ability to move in any one of a multitude of directions, with the ability to shift in another quickly as circumstances change, all hinges on our ability to see into the future.
The pioneers in this year’s report are generating an average of 40% more revenue per license – from $2.6M for pensives, to $3.6M for pioneers. This generates a virtuous cycle, they continue to generate strong results that help fund further technology investments, and greater future returns.
This year’s State of Salesforce report provides valuable insights into how the top performing companies on the planet are already implementing change in the next wave of technology.
There is no doubt that the next few years are going to be extremely exciting for organizations who adopt generative AI, and of course, for those Salesforce professionals who will be implementing it.
One of my favorite parts about this report is that it focuses on the vital and also secondary areas that we will all need to take into consideration when embarking on this new journey. Whilst AI is our favorite new toy at the moment, let’s not forget about data, change management, and adoption as core pillars of any Salesforce implementation.